Vol 32 (2012): Special Issue: Making Educational Oral Histories in the 21st Century


This article discusses the value of using Holocaust survivors’ testimonies to educate students on the history of the Holocaust and more globally to help them develop critical thinking and citizenship related skills. We will present the Montreal Holocaust Memorial Centre (MHMC) project, Witness to History, and its use for educational purposes. In the first part of the paper we describe our oral historyproject, discuss the process of conducting video interviews and cataloguing the testimonies through a database and offer possibilities for sharing the testimonies with the public. In the second part we introduce some of the challenges faced by historians collecting oral history, such as the subjectivity and selectivity of a testimony, as well as how interaction in the interview situation impacts on the emerging story and to what extent they can be treated as authentic accounts of past events. Finally, we discuss some theoretical concerns related to the use of oral history in the classroom. We propose a methodology for the introduction of testimonies in history class, which promotes understanding of the different contributions of the historian and the witness to history and Holocaust education. We illustrate this methodology through presentation of one of the activities developed by the MHMC for teachers.

Video Testimonies
1. Abraham M. is a Hungarian Jew who survived 5 concentration camps Download (2MB)
2. Abraham M. becomes very emotional while talking about the last time he saw his mother Download (5MB)
3. David S.R. is a Holocaust survivor. He speaks about his school back in 1920s. Download (12MB)
4. David S.R. is a Holocaust survivor. He speaks about an event that happened when he was a baby. Download (6MB)
5. Chava Favor is a Hungarian Jew who survived the Holocaust. Chava speaks about a shoe brush she was given during wartime. Download (3MB)
6. Jacob F. is a German Jew who immigrated to Palestine in 1940. Download (16MB)
7. Instead of answering a question about her relatives fate, Margrit K. resumes her story about her life in Bremen, 1944. Download (2MB)
8. One tragedy, different personal stories: when the survivors about the Holocaust. Download (36MB)